When does the past begin? The creation, flood, the exodus, last year?    

by R. Gene Geisler   April 15, 2000  Comment on:

The government attorney claimed that "The resources at Fort Funston right now are not in as good shape as they should be" and went on to suggest that the park should be restored to be "as it was" in the past.

What is meant by the "past". I saw that land during the Korean War (1950-54) when the Western Army Antiaircraft Command had an anti-aircraft battery there. I was aide-de-camp to the CG of WAAC and we visited the site because of the problem of blowing sand and the sand dust sensitive computer, radar and and antiaircraft guns which were there. The area was moving dunes and the WAAC worked to strengthen the ice plant which was already there and stabilized the dunes insofar as they were stable. I was not aware of native plants in any profusion such as exists in the north enclosed area after much prolonged effort by the Park Service and their Native Plant fanatics. If the area had had a cover such as that, it would have been a fire hazard what with an entire battery of men living there.

I could argue that the removal of the ice plant and the moisture it retains all year sustaining a healthy soil is what has injured the nesting habits of the birds. For all we know, the decline of their population was stimulated by DDT in Mexico, or the place where they spend the winters or summers rather than the place where they merely breed. If the bird colony has been there since 1927 then it had adapted to living with the ice plant. The introduction of species arbitrarily designated as native (who defines "native"?) coincides with the confusion of the birds as to their nesting sites.

You might also argue that it was the ice plant which encouraged the species there in the first place. This I do argue is a case of the Law of unintended consequences. The do gooders destroy the habitat in the name of some higher good: native plants. By removing the existing cover they destroy the habitat to which the birds had adapted.

Fort Funston, in the 20th and probably in the 19th century has been just that: a military Fort with all the concerns that a military post has for livability, utility, etc. First it was the coast artillery; then it was the antiaircraft artillery. The ice plant was a very practical solution to a serious problem: moving dunes and blowing sand. Just as the eucalyptus tree was a very practical way to obtain shade along el camino real which so often traversed chaparral. I am prepared to argue that they are both natives today: Not the plants which were never really there and which in any case did not prevent the dunes from moving the way the ice plant did and does yet when left alone. I have a feeling that FF became a recreation area after the aircraft carrier and long range bombers made it obsolete. The military needed to justify holding onto coastal property "just in case it is ever needed".

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